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How (and When) to Get Great Testimonials

Testimonials are like stunt doubles. Someone else does the work, and you get the credit. Let me give you an example.


This past week I asked a decision maker how she will decide which consulting firm to bring in. (I’m in the running for a substantial project with a drug-development company). She answered, “We’re looking for cultural fit, and experience, and your references… but I see you’ve worked with Acme Corp, and the comments from Norman, their VP of Development were very impressive, so we’re good on that front.”

Thank you, Norman! Life—and winning projects—is so much easier when other people are saying how great you are.

Testimonials propel your new-business efforts in two ways:

  • They build your credibility. One solid testimonial from a credible source outshines an endless stream of self-proclamations about talent and expertise.
  • They provide social proof. The fact that someone else invested in a project with you gives the decision maker confidence to sink their cash into a project (important decision #1) and to conduct that project with you (important decision #2).

The more prestigious and marquee your client, the more a testimonial works on your behalf. It’s like having Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson tell people you’re buff. After that, you don’t have to show off your biceps. Thank goodness.


When do you ask for a testimonial? Should you wait until the project is complete?

I ask for testimonials throughout a project. Every success along the way, when positive emotions are running high, is an opportunity to capture a fresh endorsement from a happy client.

Back in the old days, I would bring a compact video camera to all my client meetings. Now my cellphone serves as an instant testimonial capture studio. During a break or immediately after a meeting concludes, I pull a key player aside and ask whether I can pose a couple of questions on camera.

What makes a great testimonial?

In addition to asking for general feedback and heaps of glowing praise, I always request that the stunt double client includes the following five tidbits:

  • Their name and position and the name of their company.
  • How long they have been at their position or in their industry; in other words, something that bolsters their credibility as an endorser. Unless they’re Dwayne Johnson or someone equally recognizable.
  • What value or benefits they received from working with me. Any little details about the situation, what we did and the benefits add punch to the endorsement. Most clients err on the side of describing the situation more than the benefits. Gently redirect them. The testimonial should be weighted heavily to compelling outcomes.
  • Why they chose to work with me rather than other alternatives. (This also cements the rationale in their mind so they’ll hire me again and recommend me to others.)
  • A powerful recommendation statement for others who are thinking of working with me.

Video in the moment, or typing while they answer those questions over the phone is the quickest, most effective way to capture a testimonial. After you edit it down to an award-winning action scene, add the endorsement to your website or book of credentials.

I don’t know yet whether I’ll win the big project with the drug development company. But I do know that the decision maker is fully bought into my value (thanks to Norman), while other consulting firms still have to prove themselves.

Now, if I can convince Dwayne Johnson to call the decision maker, that should seal the deal.

How have testimonials helped your practice?

  1. Constantinos Charalambous
    June 10, 2015 at 3:37 pm Reply

    I fully agree that a good testimonial is extremely useful. Is it easy to pursuance a client to give you this testimonial. I believe that most of the clients will be very skeptical to give you a good testimonial because they may fear that the next time they need your services you may ask for more money.

    • David A. Fields
      June 12, 2015 at 7:54 am Reply

      That’s a perspective I’ve not encountered before, Constantinos. Personally, I’ve never encountered a client that has withheld praise for work well done out of fear that the consultant will raise his rates. Perhaps that’s a cultural dynamic and more prevalent in some countries than others. Don’t let the concern you mentioned stop you from asking for a testimonial; the worst they can say is, “No.”

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